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Zodiacal Light
for flute, clarinet and piano

Full Orchestra
String Orchestra
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Solo Instrumental
Clarinet Compositions
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I. Aurora Borealis
II. False Dawn
III. Leonids

Each movement of Zodiacal Light is based on rare and awe-inspiring events that light up the night sky. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, is the inspiration for the first movement. These elusive curtain-like glows of green, red, and purple appear near the earth's poles, and venture south only when solar storms hit the earth's atmosphere. The piano generates a glow of warmth with a continuous flow of figuration while the flute and clarinet trade lyrical melodies characterized by a falling dotted rhythm gesture. These themes carry the movement through various colors and textures, and at the end, a seemingly climactic moment suddenly fades away into the ether.

The second movement, False Dawn, is a reference to the composition's title. The Zodiacal Light is a luminous cone that appears along the ecliptic, or the line along which the sun moves throughout the year. Thought to be sunlight reflecting off of countless tiny asteroids and dust particles, the ethereal glow over the horizon would sometimes be seen by sailors amid open waters and mistaken for dawn, giving them false hope that the day was about to arrive. This movement is structured as a passacaglia, featuring a repeating bass line around which the texture blossoms from delicate starlight into luminous grandeur. As soon as the swells seem to reach their peak, the music is dramatically torn down when the chord progression fails to move past its first harmony after many repeated tries. A final partial statement of the bass line returns the music back into the silence of the night.

I have distinct memories of seeing the Leonid meteor shower in November, 2001, waking up at 4 in the morning and lying down in my driveway. I was amazed to see bright meteors flashing around the sky immediately and with high frequency, at least a handful every minute. It was thrilling, and witnessing this meteor shower helped cultivate my love for astronomy. Frequently during the movement, the flute, clarinet, and later the piano sound create an aural representation of the meteors with quick rising gestures. The music alternates between a rapid fluid moto perpetuo and a more stilted but still energetic imitative texture. Towards the end, the flowing theme from the first movement returns. It is paired with the stilted texture at first, and finally stated in a grandiose manner. One final upward rush of meteors brings the work to a close.

Zodiacal Light was commissioned by the Flute and Clarinet Duos Consortium, including

Joanna Cowan White and Kennen White (Crescent Duo)
Nora Lee Garcia and Keith Koons
Leslie Timmons and Nicholas Morrison (~AirFare~)
Eileen Grycky and Christopher Nichols
Leonard Garrison and Shannon Scott (Scott/Garrison Duo)
Nathaniel Berman and Alexandra Aguirre (Duo Madera Winds)
Leone Buyse and Michael Webster (Buyse-Webster Duo)
Dennis Carter, Lisa Raschiatore, and Mariah Boucher (Protea)
Kip Franklin and Travis Jones
Anne Wall, Tony Negron and Agnieska Zick (Tampa Chamber Players)
Lauren McNee and Lisa Perry (Cascade Duo)
Jill Heyboer and Sandra Jackson
Tammy Yonce and Michael Walsh
Marissa Olin and Jonathan Holden
Jennifer Shanahan and Manuel Antonio Ramos
Jennifer and Michael Isadore
Erin K. Murphy, Laura McLaughlin, and Elena Doubovitskaya (Lakeshore Rush)
Dalia Chin, Anastasia Christofakis, and Cholong Park (What Is Noise)
Francesca Arnone and Stacey McColley (Maderas Duo)
Sarah Jane Young and Boja Kragulj (Bold City Contemporary Ensemble)
Christina Guenther, Christopher Ayer, and Ron Petti
Lisa Garner Santa and David Shea
Julia Heinen, David Shostac, and Francoise Regnat (TEMPO Ensemble)

Image of Zodiacal Light by ESO/Y.Beletsky - ESO, CC BY 4.0, Link

Watch a live performance by the Scott/Garrison Duo (Shannon Scott, clarinet, and Leonard Garrison, flute) with Roger McVey, piano:

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Zodiacal Light

Copyright © by Roger Zare Music, ASCAP. All Rights Reserved.